5 Stars Reviews

Review: If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

At a prestigious upstate Liberal Arts college, a troupe of theatre students have formed a close clique in which they live, eat, and breathe Shakespeare. When a casting turns their roles upside down, the stage begins to blur into real life until one of them shows up dead.

You can justify anything if you do it poetically enough.

I had heard fantastic things about If We Were Villains but I’ve been burned a lot by mediocre books that all claim to be the next The Secret History so I went into this with some trepidation. I think this approach did me good, because once I got into If We Were Villains, I was floored by how brilliant it was.

It does start with a little pretension; the characters talking to each other in Shakespeare quotes took me a chapter or two to get used to, but there’s a self-awareness to M. L. Rio’s writing that made this pretension somewhat endearing rather that annoying. The characters are a little archetypal but that’s the point; their archetypal on-stage typecasting mirrors their real life roles, a little too closely, which is where the conflict begins to brew. Whilst the twists and turns and reveals weren’t always a shock to me, I had so much fun with this wild ride of a book. It’s extremely well crafted and a fantastic debut that I can definitely see myself re-reading, which is not something I do often.

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

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